It seems late to be posting the first post of the new year in mid-January, but the blog has been on break, taking a much-needed vacation while I finished writing a chapter for an upcoming exhibition on Frans Wildenhain, a Bauhaus-trained potter who came to the United States in the late 1940s. The exhibition is the effort of Bruce Austin, who has put together an excellent website that you can view here. My essay traces the development of American ceramics during Wildenhain's career and covers the major movements and figures.
Some other news:
I had the good fortune of attending the opening of the Met's "Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York," an impressive exhibition of Phyfe's work and the first retrospective to be held featuring him in 90 years. I cannot recall seeing an opening for American furniture so well-attended, the galleries were packed and it was difficult to take it all in. Luckily, the exhibit runs through May 6 and (for those unable to head East) there is an exceptional catalog of work. Peter Kenny's long study of Phyfe has paid off and I am hopeful that this will introduce Phyfe and his work to a new audience.
Winter Antique Show:
NY's premier antiques event kicks off this week and once again the show is assisted by Interns from the American Fine and Decorative Arts Program at Sotheby's Institute of Art. Throughout the course of two weeks, students learn aspects of the business that are impossible to tech in a classroom, like working with Show staff, vetting committees, dealers, and interacting directly with the press and public. I am happy to say that this year we are sending 15 interns to the show and that they'll be working directly with two star Alumi: Mary Urban (who ran the American Art Fair this Fall) and Ashley Rettenmaier, Project Manager.
For those of you unfamiliar with the antiques trade, this is Americana week in New York, and in addition to the Phyfe Show, and the Winter Antiques Show, it means that the Auction houses put forward their best material, creating a critical mass of objects in the city throughout the week. In addition, this year Christie's is hosting a symposium on Newport furniture, designed to coincide with their sale and also the opening of the American Wing at the Met's paintings galleries. Both houses offer an exceptional chance to see and experience some of the finest pieces of Americana before their tucked away into private collections, or behind the ropes and glass of museums. I should also mention that Leigh Keno has another impressive sale taking place this week. It makes for a busy but rewarding week in the city.
Last, and certainly not least.
American Paintings? In New York? After a long absence the long awaited opening of the Met's galleries will finally happen. After a bit of a rough spell for paintings in New York (Especially during the period that the NYHS and the Met were closed for renovation) things return to normal as the Met's galleries finally re-open this week. Highlights are sure to include the recently cleaned and framed Washington Crossing the Delaware by Leutze, as well as Church's Heart of the Andes which has been reframed in a period frame. Sargent's Madame X is also back her in frame, looking a bit more dignified than she did in the Luce Center, where her frame would not fit in the case and was removed. In contrast to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston whose new American wing is more intimate in scale, richly colored with period wall coverings, and feels (with the exception of the Native American Work) richly integrated in terms of different materials and media, the Met's wing is clean, austere, and grand. The very different installations afford an interesting comparison of visitor experience, the role of context in display, and in what sort of audiences each of the spaces speaks to. This should certainly be the subject of another post.